Tracing the factor of language difference in distinctions between English and German versions of John Steinbeck’s «The Grapes of Wrath» | Статья в сборнике международной научной конференции

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Рубрика: 7. Вопросы переводоведения

Опубликовано в

V международная научная конференция «Современная филология» (Самара, март 2017)

Дата публикации: 16.02.2017

Статья просмотрена: 47 раз

Библиографическое описание:

Шичкина, М. Г. Tracing the factor of language difference in distinctions between English and German versions of John Steinbeck’s «The Grapes of Wrath» / М. Г. Шичкина. — Текст : непосредственный // Современная филология : материалы V Междунар. науч. конф. (г. Самара, март 2017 г.). — Самара : ООО "Издательство АСГАРД", 2017. — С. 95-97. — URL: (дата обращения: 18.05.2022).

Distinctions between languages underlie various translational transformations and occur to many contexts of translational procedure. Spontaneous and consciously arranged changes made in the process of translation can be viewed as a result of differences between languages on many levels of equivalence. The levels I refer to in this context are the levels exposed in Professor V. N. Komissarov’s theory, one of the most famous and popular theories in Translation Studies (TS). It is a scheme, a series of levels which «all build upon each other with the lowest level of equivalence being retained and built on by the next higher level of equivalence» [6, c. 27]. There are the following five levels, as stated:

1) The level of the aim of communication (also called the pragmatic level in English)

2) The level of the situation described (the situational level)

3) The level of the way of describing the situation (the semantic paraphrase)

4) The level of the meaning of syntactic structures (transformational equivalence)

5) The level of the meanings of lexical units (lexical and grammatical equivalence).

It should be noted that by the reason of the same roots German and English share, they mostly have differences only on the last three (and more often, two) levels. With regard to the fact that historically the German and English languages come from the same Germanic language family, it is legitimate to presuppose that many lexical units, as well as grammatical structures are similar in English and German. The above-mentioned statement is testified in every context, as these genetically-related words and constructions are found throughout almost every original text and its translated version. On the fifth level, only the difference in the meanings of lexical units is displayed, whereas many German and English words retain also similarities and in some cases even the same features in spelling and sound. This could be explained by the fact of the impressing contrast separating English and Russian, the latter of which is V. N. Komissarov’s native language. However, the above-mentioned specific feature is recurrently observed in translational process, while interacting with German and English. John Steinbeck’s «The Grapes of Wrath», an American novelist novel published in 1939, and its translation are abound with these.

To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth.

Über das rote Land und einen Teil des grauen Landes von Oklahomafiel sanft der letzte Regen; aber er drang nicht in die rissige Erde ein.

It is also worthy to consider the parallel equivalence on the fifth level which occurs to many lexical units in German and in English. Exempli gratia, all the words in bold in the previous example completely share the same meaning. This could be explained by extra-linguistic factors as in the situation related to pronunciation and spelling. The translational process, thus, becomes easier to carry out, and the translator can instantly determine the meaning of the word in the other language.

On the forth level, many units also correspond to each other. The target and the source language sentences manifest transformations in the aspect of grammar, and the number of transformations can vary due to certain extra-linguistic and linguistic factors. The similarity is manifested in the following sentence:

The wind grew stronger, whisked under stones, carried up straws and old leaves…

Der Wind wurde stärker, fegte unter die Steine, trug Stroh und alte Blätter…

Both sentences in the two languages share the same voice and the same part of speech for words. However, there appears the article “die» in the second sentence, which indicates that still some differences and distinctions are present in the two languages. No other change of the grammar meaning within the sentence displays the original and translated versions virtually correspond to each other.

The third level in V. N. Komissarov’s scheme illustrates the closeness of German and English as well. On this level of equivalence, the source and target sentences have only grammar structures different which is not the case in many sentences of John Steinbeck’s novel and its translation. A number of sentences could be given to prove this statement:

1) Men and women huddled in their houses...

Die Männer und Frauen drängten sich in ihre Häuser…

2) «No», said the waitress, and she lovingly fingered the lump under her ear.

3) «Nein», sagte die Kellnerin und betastete liebevoll die Beule unter ihrem Ohr.

On the second level, the same situation is described with other conventional means. This is usually caused by serious structural differences between languages, which commonly occurs to Russian and English or any other languages, totally different from each other. However, German and English belong to the same family branch and by that reason coincide in many areas and parts of the languages. All the sentences cited above could be an example of their affinity.

The same could be stated regarding the first level of equivalence as well, which looses the bond between the source and target sentence even to a higher degree. The only chain, which connects the sentences, is their function and presupposed effect, thus the abyss between the languages becomes even bigger.

However, the question is: are the German and English languages to that extent similar? As a matter of fact, they have a number of things in common: similar structures, grammar constructions, lexical units with the same meaning and phonetic similarity. However, it is essential to differentiate the source and target texts, as they are designed on the basis of the two languages, which, although similar, have many distinctions. The contrast is caused by extra-linguistic factors and includes mainly grammatical contrast, meaning there is a gap between German and English in relation to certain tenses and forms of verbs. It could be considerably difficult to transform one sentence into other and literally «step over» the abyss. The contrast could be easily seen in certain phrases and sentences of the original and translated texts:

«Well, that's better'n stickin' aroun' Sallisaw an' starvin' to death», he said. «We better look out for a place to stop».

«Ist immer noch besser, wie in Sallisaw zu hocken und zu verhungern», sagte er. «Jetzt wollen wir uns lieber mal ’n Platz suchen für die Nacht».

First and foremost, in the comparison scheme one can notice the lapse of the accent typical particularly for Oklahoma: instead it was replaced by colloquial German and colloquialisms, as well as the contraction «’n» which stands for «einen». With the source text, it was possible to instantly identify the origin of the characters, but with the target text the context is required to discern this fact.

In regard to the levels of equivalence, one can indicate the following levels of equivalence that are not completely matched in certain fragments of the text.

For instance,

«No gettin’ away from that.»

«Da ist nichts dran zu ändern».

The levels, which match this target text, are equivalence on the level of the aim of communication and on the level of the situation described. The distinction of such a kind between the source and target texts is caused by the lack of similar grammatical constructions in German and consequently impossibility to translate the English sentence with retention of the same forms.

«The surface of the earth crusted, a thin hard crust, and as the sky became pale, so the earth became pale, pink in the red country and white in the gray country.»

«Die Erde setzte eine Kruste an, eine dünne, harte Kruste, und wie der Himmel bleich wurde, so wurde auch die Erde bleich — blaßrot das rote Land und weiß das graue Land.»

The equivalence is on the levels of the aim of communication, the situation described, the way of describing the situation and in some parts also of the meaning of syntactic structures and of the meanings of lexical units. But it is also possible to observe that some structures and forms are different and cannot be replaced by something more similar. It should be marked out that English and German, although similar, due to extra linguistic factors, have significant distinctions, which the comparison of the source and target texts manifests. The distinctions should be learnt and further explored, as they could promote the learning process, as well as become the key to the other important breakthroughs in Translation Science.


  1. Proshina Z. G., Ettkin B. P. English–Russian language contacts // World Englishes. — 2005. — Т. 24. — №. 4. — С. 439–444.
  2. Komissarov V. The semantic and the cognitive in the text: a problem in equivalence // Meta: Journal des traducteurs Meta: /Translators' Journal. — 1987. — Т. 32. — №. 4. — С. 416–419.
  3. Steinbeck J. The grapes of wrath (1939). — na, 1939.
  4. Steinbeck J., Lambrecht K., von zur Mühlen M. Früchte des Zorns. — DZB, 2002.
  5. Усен Б. Theory of equivalence in translation: historical review // Вестник КазНУ Серия Востоковедения. — 2016. — Т. 52. — №. 3.
  6. Durao R. Technical Translation: Usability Strategies for Translating Technical Documentation. — 2009. — C. 27.
Основные термины (генерируются автоматически): DZB.

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